The Newbie British Expat’s Guide to Shopping in Spain

Shopping in Spain

Shopping will inevitably form part of your everyday life once you move to Spain.

Unlike some countries – the UK, for example – Spain has preserved its small-shop culture in town and city centres so it’s easy to find specialist tiendas such as ironmongers, haberdasheries, stationers etc.

At the other extreme, Spain has lots of big shopping centres where you’ll find large stores and hypermarkets. In this article, we offer essential information on shopping in Spain.

Shopping for food

With its wide range of locally-grown, reared or caught produce, Spain is one of the Europe’s paradises when it comes to food shopping.

Visiting a fresh food market – most towns have at least one – provides a feast for all the senses and can be surprisingly good value for money.

In fact, you’ll probably find food shopping considerably cheaper than what you’re used to.

Supermarkets

Spain has lots of supermarkets and you’ll find at least one in the smaller towns and a good choice in larger towns and cities.

Most supermarkets stock fresh foods and include designated meat and fish counters, and produce their own brand for most popular foodstuffs.

The larger chains often have a small selection of international produce, although at higher prices than Spanish food.

‘Homegrown’ supermarkets include Mercadona, Día (and their slightly more up-market La Plaza del Día), Covirán and Supersol.

The flagship Spanish department store, El Corte Inglés, also runs its own chain of supermercados called Supermercados El Corte Inglés.

Aldi and Lidl are also present in Spain. Hypermarkets that sell appliances, furniture and DIY equipment include Alcampo, Carrefour, Eroski and Hypercor. Most shopping centres include a hypermarket.

Food markets

Some food markets in Spain such as La Boquería in Barcelona and Atarazanas in Malaga have recently become top tourist attractions, but they’ll still very much a part of local life and many Spaniards shop there regularly.

Food markets in Spain are definitely the best places to find the freshest produce whether you’re looking for seasonal fruit and vegetables, meat or fish.

They’re also good places to source cheese and cold cuts as well as staples such olives, dried fruit and nuts, and bread.

Other markets

  • Mercadillos – almost everywhere in Spain has a weekly market, known as a mercadillo, with stalls selling anything from children’s toys to women’s underwear. You’ll also find food stalls, particularly fruit and vegetables, and local cheeses and cold cuts.
  • Farmers’ markets – these are increasingly popular in Spain and most large towns host one a month, usually on a Saturday. This is the best place for local produce and organic food.

Opening hours

Perhaps one of the most difficult things to get used to when shopping in Spain are the opening hours. They vary hugely from shop to shop and from town to town. And to make things even more complicated, they’re different in the winter and summer! However, the following generally applies:

Small shops

As a general rule, small shops open Monday to Friday between 9.30 and 10.30am to 1.30 or 2pm.

They then shut for lunch and reopen between 5 and 5.30pm until 8 or 8.30pm. Most small shops open on Saturday mornings only, usually 10 or 10.30am to 1.30 or 2pm.

During the summer months, many small shops open in the afternoon between 6 and 9pm or close altogether.

Larger shops and stores

In towns and cities, they usually open between 10am and 8.30 or 9pm Monday to Saturday. In areas inland, larger shops and stores close at lunchtime in the summer when you may find many shops close for the month of August.

Supermarkets and hypermarkets

In the larger towns and cities, supermarkets tend to open from 9 or 9.30am to 9 or 9.30pm, Monday to Saturday. They don’t generally shut for lunch.

Markets

Most markets open for the morning only. Food markets generally open at 8.30 or 9am and close between 2 and 3pm, Monday to Saturday.

Mercadillos start slightly later – you may not find all the stalls set up and ready until 10am – and often stay open until 4 or 5pm if business is good.

Sunday opening

Some regions of Spain (e.g. Madrid) allow shops to open on Sundays but others are more restrictive.

On the Costa del Sol, for example, shops and stores are allowed to open on Sundays during July and August, and over the Christmas holidays.

In general, it’s unusual to find shops in Spain open on a Sunday.